Yasuke was of black African origin and who served under the Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga in 1581 and 1582, as a Samurai. According to historical accounts, Yasuke may have been a Muslim who originated from Mozambique, Portugal, Angola or Ethiopia.
Described as healthy and good-looking with a pleasant demeanour, tall (at least 6 ft. 2 in.) and had a very strong, and intimidating presence. Yasuke quickly rose through the ranks becoming Nobunaga’s chief warrior and was given his own residence and a ceremonial katana by Nobunaga.
Nobunaga eventually made Yasuke his bodyguard and a samurai in 1581 and was stationed at Nobunaga’s Azuchi Castle.
Mitsuhide, who was one of Nobunaga’s trusted vassals, who later went onto to betray his Lord at Honnōji, dismissed Yasuke as “a beast” and not a true samurai because he wasn’t Japanese. Yasuke offered his sword to Mitsuhide, as was customary, and returned to the service of the Jesuit Valignano, before falling into obscurity.
Development with Lionsgate
Lionsgate has put into development a feature film based on Yasuke’s life, with “Highlander” creator Gregory Widen, on board to script the project which they are currently calling “Black Samurai.” Described as an action drama, Mike De Luca and Stephen L’Heureux are producing, and the film is a co-production between Solipsist Films and De Luca Productions.
Writer, Gregory Widen, said about the movie:
“[Black Samurai] is based on the true story of an African whose journey to Japan comes with conflicting background stories.
The one I’ve chosen is that he was a slave soldier after the fall of Abysinnian Bengal, a black kingdom run by Ethiopians. He was sold into slavery and found himself in the care of Alessandro Valignano, an Italian missionary.
They formed a bond, and when there were complications in Rome, he was sent to Japan and took Yasuke with him. There he met Oda Nobunaga, who was interested in all Western things, and through a series of bizarre events, the Jesuit left Yasukie with the warlord.”
There have been no further updates from Lionsgate since the project was announced, in terms of casting, or production.
Here is a quick overview of Yasuke’s life for those interested in the folklore and history of “The Black Samurai”.